1997 Regular Session
To: Public Health and Welfare; Judiciary A
By: Representative Miles
House Bill 439
AN ACT TO AMEND SECTION 43-17-5, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO PROVIDE THAT IF THE DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES DETERMINES THAT AN UNMARRIED INDIVIDUAL WHO HAS APPLIED FOR OR IS RECEIVING TEMPORARY ASSISTANCE FOR NEEDY FAMILIES (TANF) BENEFITS IS NOT COOPERATING WITH THE STATE IN ESTABLISHING THE PATERNITY OF ANY DEPENDENT CHILD OF THE INDIVIDUAL, THE DEPARTMENT SHALL REDUCE THE AMOUNT OF TANF BENEFITS THAT WOULD OTHERWISE BE PROVIDED TO THE FAMILY OF THE INDIVIDUAL BY 50%, AND SHALL REDUCE THE MAXIMUM PERIOD OF TIME THAT THE FAMILY OF THE INDIVIDUAL WOULD OTHERWISE BE ELIGIBLE TO RECEIVE TANF BENEFITS BY 25%; TO AMEND SECTION 43-19-41, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, IN CONFORMITY TO THE PRECEDING PROVISION; TO PROVIDE THAT IF AN UNMARRIED INDIVIDUAL WHO HAS APPLIED FOR OR IS RECEIVING TANF BENEFITS IDENTIFIES AN INDIVIDUAL TO THE DEPARTMENT AS THE ALLEGED FATHER OF ANY CHILD OF THE APPLICANT OR RECIPIENT, AND THE ALLEGED FATHER DOES NOT VOLUNTARILY ACKNOWLEDGE HIS PATERNITY OF THAT CHILD IN WRITING, THE DEPARTMENT SHALL INITIATE A PATERNITY ACTION AGAINST THE ALLEGED FATHER; TO PROVIDE THAT IF THE FATHER OF A CHILD OF AN UNMARRIED INDIVIDUAL WHO HAS APPLIED FOR OR IS RECEIVING TANF BENEFITS IS UNDER 18 YEARS OF AGE AT THE TIME THAT HIS PATERNITY IS ACKNOWLEDGED OR DETERMINED, IS A FULL-TIME STUDENT IN GOOD STANDING, AND IS UNABLE TO PAY THE FULL AMOUNT OF THE CHILD SUPPORT THAT OTHERWISE WOULD BE REQUIRED, THE COURT MAY REDUCE THE AMOUNT OF CHILD SUPPORT THAT THE FATHER IS REQUIRED TO PAY, OR DEFER THE BEGINNING DATE OF THE FATHER'S PAYMENT OF CHILD SUPPORT, DURING THE TIME THAT HE MEETS ALL OF THE SPECIFIED CONDITIONS; TO PROVIDE THAT ANY SUCH REDUCTION IN OR DEFERRAL OF THE PAYMENT OF CHILD SUPPORT DOES NOT RELIEVE THE FATHER OF THE RESPONSIBILITY OF PAYING THE AMOUNT BY WHICH THE CHILD SUPPORT IS REDUCED OR THE AMOUNT OF CHILD SUPPORT THAT IS DEFERRED; TO AMEND SECTIONS 43-19-33, 93-9-9 AND 93-9-29, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, IN CONFORMITY TO THE PRECEDING PROVISIONS; TO AMEND SECTION 93-9-45, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO PROVIDE THAT IN A PATERNITY ACTION BROUGHT BY THE DEPARTMENT AGAINST AN ALLEGED FATHER ON BEHALF OF AN UNMARRIED INDIVIDUAL WHO HAS APPLIED FOR OR IS RECEIVING TANF BENEFITS, IF THE COURT DETERMINES THAT THE ALLEGED FATHER IS NOT THE FATHER OF THE CHILD, ALL COURT COSTS, OTHER COSTS AND ATTORNEY'S FEES SHALL BE TAXED AGAINST THE DEPARTMENT; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. Section 43-17-5, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
43-17-5. (1) The amount of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits which may be granted for any dependent child and a needy caretaker relative shall be determined by the county department with due regard to the resources and necessary expenditures of the family and the conditions existing in each case, and in accordance with the rules and regulations made by the * * * Department of Human Services, and shall be sufficient when added to all other income (except that any income specified in the Federal Social Security Act, as amended, may be disregarded) and support available to the child to provide such child with a reasonable subsistence compatible with decency and health. The first family member in the dependent child's budget may receive an amount not to exceed Sixty Dollars ($60.00) per month; the second family member in the dependent child's budget may receive an amount not to exceed Thirty-six Dollars ($36.00) per month; and each additional family member in the dependent child's budget an amount not to exceed Twenty-four Dollars ($24.00) per month. The maximum for any individual family member in the dependent child's budget may be exceeded for foster or medical care or in cases of mentally retarded or physically handicapped children.
(2) If the Department of Human Services determines that an unmarried individual who has applied for or is receiving TANF benefits is not cooperating in good faith with the state in establishing the paternity of any dependent child of the individual by providing the department with the name of, and such other information as the department may require with respect to, the alleged father of the child, and the individual does not qualify for any good cause or other exception established by the department, the department shall reduce the amount of TANF benefits that would otherwise be provided to the family of the individual by fifty percent (50%), and shall reduce the maximum period of time that the family of the individual would otherwise be eligible to receive TANF benefits under state law by twenty-five percent (25%).
SECTION 2. Section 43-19-41, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
43-19-41. Any applicant or recipient who refuses to provide reasonable assistance to the local county department or to the child support unit established by the * * * Department of Human Services in identifying and locating the absent parent of a dependent child or otherwise refuses to cooperate with the department in securing support or in establishing paternity shall have the amount of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits that would otherwise be provided to the family of the applicant or recipient reduced by fifty percent (50%), and shall have the maximum period of time that the family of the recipient or applicant would otherwise be eligible to receive TANF benefits under state law by twenty-five percent (25%).
SECTION 3. (1) If an unmarried individual who has applied for or is receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits identifies an individual to the Department of Human Services as the alleged father of any child of the applicant or recipient, and the alleged father does not voluntarily acknowledge his paternity of that child in writing according to the laws of this state, the department shall initiate a paternity action against the alleged father in accordance with Sections 43-19-31 et seq. and 93-9-1 et seq., unless the department determines that there is no probability that the individual identified as the alleged father is the actual father and that a paternity action against that person would be useless, frivolous or otherwise without merit.
(2) If the father of a child of an unmarried individual who has applied for or is receiving TANF benefits is:
(a) Under eighteen (18) years of age at the time that his paternity is acknowledged or determined,
(b) A full-time student in good standing who is receiving passing grades, and
(c) Unable to pay the full amount of the child support that otherwise would be required unless he withdraws from school to obtain full-time employment,
the court that determined the amount of child support to be paid may reduce the amount of child support that the father is required to pay, or defer the beginning date of the father's payment of child support, during the time that he meets all of the conditions specified in paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of this subsection. However, any reduction in or deferral of the payment of child support under this subsection does not relieve the father of the responsibility of paying the amount by which the child support is reduced or the amount of child support that is deferred. At such time as the father does not meet all of the conditions specified in paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of this subsection, he shall begin paying child support as directed by the court, which shall include the amount by which the child support was reduced or the amount of child support that was deferred under the authority of this subsection. This subsection shall apply to a father regardless of whether his paternity was voluntarily acknowledged or was determined in a court proceeding.
SECTION 4. Section 43-19-33, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
43-19-33. (1) In lieu of legal proceedings instituted to obtain support for a dependent child from the responsible parent, a written stipulated agreement to support the child by periodic payments executed by the responsible parent when acknowledged before a clerk of the court having jurisdiction over such matters or a notary public and filed with and approved by the judge of the court shall have the same force and effect, retroactively and prospectively, in accordance with the terms of the agreement as an order of support entered by the court, and shall be enforceable and subject to modification in the same manner as is provided by law for orders of the court in such cases.
(2) In lieu of legal proceedings instituted to establish paternity, a written admission of paternity containing a stipulated agreement of support executed by the putative father of the dependent child, when accompanied by a written affirmation of paternity executed and sworn to by the mother of the dependent child, when acknowledged by the putative father before a clerk of the court having jurisdiction over such matters or a notary public and filed with and approved by the judge of the court, shall have the same force and effect, retroactively and prospectively, in accordance with the terms of the agreement, as an order of filiation and support entered by the court, and shall be enforceable and subject to modification in the same manner as is provided by law for orders of the court in such cases.
(3) At any time after filing with the court having jurisdiction of such matters of an acknowledgment of paternity wherein a provision of support has not been entered into, upon the application of any interested party, the court or any judge thereof shall issue a summons signed by him or by the clerk of the court requiring the putative father to appear in court at any time and place named therein, to show cause, if any he can, why the court should not enter an order for the support of the child by periodic payments, which order may include provisions for reimbursement for medical expenses incident to the pregnancy and the birth of the child, accrued maintenance and reasonable expenses of the action under this subsection on the acknowledgment of paternity previously filed with said court. Provided, that in the case of a child who, upon reaching the age of twenty-one (21) years, is mentally or physically incapable of self-support, the putative father shall not be relieved of the duty of support unless the child is a long-term patient in a facility owned or operated by the State of Mississippi. The prior judgment as to paternity shall be res judicata as to that issue and shall not be reconsidered by the court.
(4) Such agreements of support, acknowledgments and affirmations of paternity and support shall be sworn to and shall be binding on the person executing the same whether he be an adult or a minor and may include provisions for the reimbursement of medical expenses incident to the pregnancy and birth of the child, accrued maintenance and reasonable expenses of any action previously filed before the court. Such agreements of support shall be subject to the provisions of subsection (2) of Section 3 of this act.
(5) All agreements entered into under the provisions as set forth hereinabove shall be filed by the clerk of the court having jurisdiction over such matters in the county in which they are entered and filing fees shall be taxed to the responsible parent.
SECTION 5. Section 93-9-9, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
93-9-9. (1) Paternity may be determined upon the petition of the mother, or father, the child or any public authority chargeable by law with the support of the child; provided that such an adjudication after the death of the defendant must be made only upon clear and convincing evidence. If paternity has been lawfully determined, or has been acknowledged in writing according to the laws of this state, the liabilities of the noncustodial parent may be enforced in the same or other proceedings by the custodial parent, the child, or any public authority which has furnished or may furnish the reasonable expenses of pregnancy, confinement, education, necessary support and maintenance, and medical or funeral expenses for the custodial parent or the child.
Payment of the liabilities of the noncustodial parent shall be subject to the provisions of subsection (2) of Section 3 of this act. However, proceedings hereunder shall not be instituted after the child has reached the age of eighteen (18) years. In the event of court determined paternity, the surname of the child shall be that of the father, unless the judgment specifies otherwise.
(2) If any party fails to file his answer or otherwise appear in response to an action commenced under this section in the manner prescribed by law and by the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure, then upon a showing of an adequate service of process, the court will find the nonappearing party in default and shall in the manner prescribed by the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure enter judgment against him.
(3) Upon application of both parents to the State Board of Health and receipt by the State Board of Health of a sworn acknowledgement of paternity executed by both parents subsequent to the birth of a child born out of wedlock, the birth certificate of the child shall be amended to show such paternity if paternity is not shown on the birth certificate. Upon request of the parents for the legitimization of a child under this section, the surname of the child shall be changed on the certificate to that of the father.
SECTION 6. Section 93-9-29, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
93-9-29. (1) If the finding be against the defendant, the court shall make an order of filiation, declaring paternity and for the support and education of the child. The order for support may include provisions authorized in subsection (2) of Section 3 of this act.
(2) The order of filiation shall specify the sum to be paid weekly or otherwise. In addition to providing for the support and education, the order shall also provide for the funeral expenses if the child has died; for the support of the child prior to the making of the order of filiation; and such other expenses as the court may deem proper. In the event the defendant has health insurance available to him through an employer or organization that may extend benefits to the dependents of such defendant, the order of filiation may require the defendant to exercise the option of additional coverage in favor of the child he is legally responsible to support.
(3) The court may require the payment to be made to the mother, or to some person or corporation to be designated by the court as trustee, but if the child is or is likely to become a public charge on a county or the state, the public welfare agent of that county shall be made the trustee. The payment shall be directed to be made to a trustee if the mother does not reside within the jurisdiction of the court. The trustee shall report to the court annually, or oftener as directed by the court, the amounts received and paid over.
SECTION 7. Section 93-9-45, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
93-9-45. If the court makes an order of filiation, declaring paternity and for the support and maintenance, and education of the child, court costs, including the cost of the legal services of the attorney representing the petitioner, expert witness fees, the court clerk, sheriff and other costs shall be taxed against the defendant. In a paternity action brought by the Department of Human Services against an alleged father as required by subsection (1) of Section 3 of this act, if the court determines that the alleged father is not the father of the child, court costs, including the cost of the legal services of the attorney representing the defendant, expert witness fees, the court clerk, sheriff and other costs shall be taxed against the department.
SECTION 8. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 1997.